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Design Diary: Fat Orange Cat Studio’s Moody Den by Wolf In Sheep Design

The last time we looked at the genius of Boston interior designer Alina Wolhardt, principal of Wolf In Sheep Design, it was to spotlight Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery in Harvard Square.

Last year in the Boston Globe column “Room to Love,” I wrote about this moody den that Wolhardt designed for Li Ward, the Boston pet and wedding photographer behind Fat Orange Cat Studio, and her husband Dan, photographed by Joyelle West.

Ward first met Wolhardt when she photographed Wolhardt’s rescue dog for the book Rescue Pets of Boston. Then, she photographed Wolhardt’s other dog at her house, where she had created a cozy man cave in a windowless room. Ward hired Wolhardt to do the same for her—a dark little sanctuary where she and her husband could hang out for  cocktails and an afternoon read. They dubbed it the opium den.

Wolhardt says, “It took a year to complete this small room but we didn’t want to just force pieces purchased online from various mass-merchandise stores. I really wanted each piece was curated very carefully and that most pieces had history. When trying to create an Old World feel, you can’t force it.”

Moody Den by Alina Wolhardt of Wolf In Sheep Design Boston

The dark wall paint color is Benjamin Moore Gray 2121-10. Wolhardt says, “We designed their bedroom to be very light and airy so we wanted to create a ying yang type of thing where one side of this floor is white and the other side to be the opposite.”

Wolhardt went monochrome on the ceiling too, but in a wallpaper, ROMO Rocks in Metallic Eggplant, which has some sparkle to it. “It’s dark gray with some gold undertone sheen, so when the surface light is on, it creates a nice glow,” Wolhardt says.

That fabulous  light is the Soleil pendant by Suzanne Kasler forCirca lighting in antique brass, chosen to create a night sky-like feeling. The gold plays off the ornate gilt frames around the space.

“The idea for this room was to create an Old World, almost Victorian feeling with mixed styles, like the room had been curated over years,” Wolhardt says. The blue velvet settee is a Hollywood Regency style, sourced from an Etsy shop. Wolhardt directed the shop owner to refinish the frame in high gloss black. The cat’s name is Bingley.

The coffee table is made from the top of Ward’s childhood desk, trimmed with church railings salvaged by local Boston-based woodworker Nick Doriss of Doriss Design Workshoppe. Doriss also helped them hang a massive live-edge wood headboard that was originally a dining tabletop from Mohr McPherson. They repurposed that table base for the coffee table base here.

The heavy, carved dresser, from Ward’s parents, had been in their bedroom, but when Wolhardt spotted it she immediately asked to move it into the cave. She says, “We didn’t need to do anything to it. Even the mirror on this piece had an antiqued finish to it, which was perfect.”

Moody Den by Alina Wolhardt of Wolf In Sheep Design Boston

The artwork is a mix of pieces Ward already owned (antiquing is a hobby), coupled with pieces they found together at Brimfield. Wolhardt says, “We wanted to arrange the pieces like a gallery wall so that she can continue to add artwork as she finds more pieces down the road.”

The floor lamp base is a vintage piece with a new lacey lampshade made by Vintage Shades.

Moody Den by Alina Wolhardt of Wolf In Sheep Design Boston

They found the marble top of the  side table at Brimfield and purchased the legs from another antique store. “Each piece has a nice little history to it,” Wolhardt says.

To make the room feel nice and cozy brought in many layers and textures. The jewel tone velvets on the upholstered pieces make it feel luxurious. The Cisco chair is custom upholstered in emerald green velvet, a nice contrast to the dark gray walls. Wolhardt says, ”

Wolhardt says, “Our mood board had jewel images as well as mussels. Mussels have dark gray shells in nice blue/green shades. I am always inspired by nature, and try to incorporate that into my designs.”

Layering the rugs adds to the overall womb-like effect. The rug on the bottom is a gold, distressed dyed antique rug and the top is a red and blue antique rug.

A distressed blue and coral vintage rug from Seed to Stem in Worcester is layered atop a large Oriental style rug from Anthropologie.

Moody Den by Alina Wolhardt of Wolf In Sheep Design Boston

The black and white photograph is from homeowner Li Ward’s “Ghost Bride” series. “She did a whole series of this woman in a wedding gown, photographed in a cemetery. When I saw the series on her website, I knew it would be perfect for this room.”

Photos by Joyelle West Photography

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Design Diary: Karen Swanson Masters Small House Living

New England Design Works kitchen and bath designer Karen Swanson is a master at small house living. She owns this perfect little house in Manchester, Massachusetts which I wrote about for Boston Globe Sunday Magazine “Small Spaces” home issue on June 7, 2015 in an article called “Party of Three,” photographed by James R. Salomon.

Swanson lives in this cedar shingled, 1,200-square-foot home (exactly 600-square feet on the top and 600-square feet on the bottom) with her daughter and son after downsizing from a 3,300-square foot place across town last spring. Swanson bought the house from an older gentleman, and it was kind of a disaster, with racoons under the floor, which was lumpy, but Jim O’Neill of O’Neill Fine Building squared her away.

As a kitchen and bath designer, she is adept at efficiently fitting everything one needs into the available space, which came in pretty handy. Small house living is a snap for Swanson. She says, “There were absolutely no compromises.”


That’s not to say there weren’t challenges to laying out the small house. The front door wouldn’t have closed if the sofa was even an inch longer. She chose the Bantam sofa from DWR not just for its length, but because it isn’t too deep, but it’s still comfortable. The Martini side table in antique brass from West Elm can be moved easily where needed. One of the great things about a smaller home, she says, is that she sees her kids a lot more.


The wall with the mural is the first thing one sees upon entering, so Swanson knew she wanted to make a statement on it. She originally imagined concocting a backlit forest scene based on the one in the restaurant at MoMA, but it proved too tricky. When she spotted this Kenneth James wallpaper mural at local design shop Watters & Brown, and realized the five strips that comprise the mural was the same size as her wall, she decided it was fate. Plus, at $350 she figured she could change it if and when she tired of it.

The oak table is Ethnicraft from Boston design store Lekker and the red chairs are the Sabrina chairs by Casprini purchased from Room & Board.”Red’s my favorite color,” Swanson says, “so they were perfect.” Plus, since they’re so light (they’re actually indoor/outdoor plastic chairs), they’re not difficult to wrangle when she has extra folks for dinner and it’s necessary to move furniture around to accommodate everyone.

The ceramic work artwork is by Next Step Studio, which Swanson discovered at the AD Home Show. Wall mirror from West Elm.


The galley kitchen is only 75-square feet but Swanson has all the storage she needs, and it looks beautiful. Despite the kitchen’s small size, it was  wide enough to make the cabinets on one side 30-inches deep (vs. the standard 24-inches deep). This made all the difference, especially for bulky items such as pots and pans, which all fit in one drawer. (Scroll down for the kitchen layout.) The floor-to-ceiling pantry also houses the toaster and microwave. She opted for a full size Wolf oven knowing she’d regret it if she went with a smaller model.


This is the kitchen wall one sees upon entering, and it’s visible from the living room, so it was important that it look good. The lift-up cabinets, which are 18-inches deep, store the food processor, stock pot, slow cooker, and such.The fridge is a 27-inch wide SubZero with two freezer drawers, which she adores. The cabinetry is painted maple and the pulls are from local hardware showroom Raybern.


The first design element Swanson chose for the house were the Walter Zanger glass tiles from Tile Showcase for the backsplash. The countertop is white Silestone. An inset stainless steel troughs holds wine, oil, cutting boards, and sometimes plants.


In order to ensure she’d have ample counter space in her small kitchen, Swanson decided on a two-burner induction cooktop. The stainless steel shelf holds all the everyday dishes and mugs, plus some food storage containers. Both the shelf and trough were fabricated at Weiss Sheet Metal, the same place that fabricated Julia Child’s kitchen now installed at the Smithsonian.


Swanson used a sink with an integrated drain board so that it could be centered on the window ,even though the sink base is not. This allowed her to squeeze an 18-inch dishwasher to the right of the sink.


White pendant light from Rejuvenation. Shelf from West Elm. Artwork from the local Montserrat College sidewalk sale. Polka dot Roman shade made from Scion fabric purchased at The Martin Group in the Boston Design Center.


Orla Kiely wallpaper (also from The Martin Group)  covers the master bathroom, which also functions as the first floor powder room. She designed the vanity for optimum storage, taking into consideration the variety of sizes of bathroom items, like soap, deodorant, and Band-Aid boxes. She placed the sink off center in order to maximize counter space.


The right side houses three drawers, each a different depth and the left side is a cabinet made to look like drawers in order to match the other side for a neat, symmetrical appearance.


The master bedroom is on the first floor; sliders open to the deck and backyard.Playing off the citrus hue of recently reupholstered 1940s chairs from local consignment shop Stock Exchange, Swanson used inexpensive yellow polka dot fabric from Calico Corners for the draperies. The Tripod table from West Elm, was previously used in her daughter’s room as a desk. She sometimes works here if the kids are watching television in the living room.


The kids bath on the second floor doubles as the laundry room. A fiberglass shower unit was originally wedged under the sloped ceiling. Swanson swapped it for a washer and dryer cleverly concealed by sliding barn-style doors. The oil painting, from local consignment shop Stock Exchange, pictures a pink house on the road to Plum Island in Newburyport, Mass.


The oil-rubbed bronze finish of the new Anderson windows works nicely with the exterior trim, painted Benjamin Moore Gropius Grey, without being an exact match. The landscaping and back deck were already in place, along with creeping hydrangea on the rock ledge. The gravel yard means no lawn to mow. The persimmon front door hints at what’s to come. Swanson says, “I love that the house is subtle on the outside but inside there’s an explosion of color.”

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